Lakshadweep is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea. The islands formerly known as Laccadives form the smallest Union Territory of India. The islands are 300km (187 mi) off the coast of Kerala. Kavaratti is the capital of the Islands. Foreigners need permits for visiting the islands.
Lakshadweep literally means One Hundred Thousand Islands in Sanskrit. It is an archipelago of twelve atolls and three reefs with a total of about 36 islands, 10 of which are in habited. The total area of land is 32 sq.km (12 sq mi). To preserve the fragile ecology and culture of the islands, only six of these - Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Bangaram, Agatti, Kadmat and Minicoy – are opened for visitors.
The islands are known for Eco-friendly tourism with white sandy beaches, tourist huts, shallow and calm lagoons and rich marine life. The unique feature of the islands is the pristine heritage of coral reefs and lagoons. The precious heritage of ecology contains over 600 species of marine fishes, 78 species of corals, 82 species of seaweed and 52 species of crabs. The Pitti Island is an important breeding place for sea turtles. Lakshadweep is often referred to as the diver’s dream, with clear waters of Indian Ocean, excellent visibility, myriad fauna, and undisturbed coral reefs. The main activities in the islands include water sports like scuba diving, yachting, sailing, kayaking, fishing, canoeing, snorkelling, etc.
The traditional art forms and tribal cultural heritage of Lakshadweep include a wide variety of folk dances performed to the rhythmic beats of drums and accompanied songs. The popular dance forms of the islands include Lava – a dance carried out by men, Kolkali – a dance with sticks, Parichakali – a dance performed with swords and shields, etc.
The religious customs, festivals and other social rituals of Lakshadweep Islands reflect the influence of Islam faith. The Kavarati Island is dotted with Muslim mosques with Ujra Masjid considered to be the most beautiful one. The Islamic festivals (Id-Ul-Fitr, Bakrid, Muharram, Milad Ul Nabi) are celebrated every year with big zeal and festivity. 95% of the Island’s population is Muslim with Malayalam being the official language. The main occupation of people is coconut cultivation and fishing. Tuna, coconut powder and coconut oil are the main items of export. Tourism is a new sector and is still developing.
The local food of Lakshadweep primarily comprises of coconut and spiced, curried, fried or barbecued sea fish. There’s no alcohol on the island and consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited.
Lakshadweep experiences tropical monsoon climate with average temperature of around 25 °C (77 °F) to 35 °C (95 °F). March to May are the hottest months of the year. Monsoon rains hit the islands between May to September.
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